Extreme solar storms and coronal mass ejections, and Carrington 1859 - could destroy modern civilization?

Bret Weinstein offers disturbing warning about unpreparedness for severe solar storms in a discussion video in London

Bret Weinstein, in a short video conversation in London with Russian-Brit comedian Konstantin Kisin, wars us “There’s something out there with the power to unleash things that it cannot keep under control”.

“Heading to Extinction”? our civilization’s existential perils, with Bret Weinstein

Bret is referring specifically to the possibility that a Carrington-sized solar storm, if it made a direct hit on Earth, could knock out the power grid for much of North America (and Europe).  It might take months to recover, or recovery of civilization as we know it might never happen.  Imagine the twenty-something YouTuber’s whose influential lives have been destroyed and they have to take their turns becoming proles.  The Marxists would love it.  Except for the spoiled, fragile Generation Z.

Bret says the problem could be fixed for less than the cost of a major bomber.  But he also notes that without electricity, water stored in conventional fission nuclear power plants would overheat and contaminate the country with radiation.  Bret says he didn’t know this until Fukushima happened to Japan from an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Bret makes the point that gradually our technology has built up mass that, if mishandled, increases the risk of an annihilation (like the 2018 movie title).  Gain of function research probably led to COVID, which has killed over 20 million people worldwide.  There are other examples.  Well, obviously, the development of nuclear weapons which might have ended civilization with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 (when I was at NIH and was the only patient who knew what was going on).  In fact, a PBS documentary about ten years ago maintains that a Russian submarine commander swallowed the keys to the red button to launch a nuclear attack against the eastern US after the blockade started. (He would have choked or gagged).

Bret maintains our most critical infrastructure vulnerabilities are managed by “fools” who think only of short-term budgets.

Jason Morton has many essays on the solar storm problem on Medium, for example this one on May 24 discussing Carrington.  He says it would cost $7 trillion to recover.

There is some controversy as to whether a solar storm could damage magnetic storage and electronic devices (an EMP type 1 would).

Watch “The Carrington Event”, 13 minutes, from the Magnus Archives, posted May 2021 by Fascinating Horor.

“The Carrington Event” short film doc

Ironically, civilization a century ago was much less dependent on electricity and wouldn’t have trouble recovering.  But today’s people would not be able to adjust to years without electricity (as in the NBC miniseries in the early 2010’s, “Revolution”).

NBC “Revolution” 2012 opening


One could imagine a movie or screenplay about how a spoiled American (me) would react if the world was warned that a hard-stopping coronal mass ejection would arrive in two days after seeing the flare.  Probably things wouldn’t be that certain.  If you tried to write a screenplay about this idea, imagine the Harmon story circles and character arcs and philosophical flips (without a full NBC series for two years).